There are multiple "rules" involved in maintaining a healthy diet. Trouble is, it's hard to figure out which ones are worth following.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity looks at the various diet ideals that we are encouraged to live by and concludes that those who are flexible with regard to what they eat often succeed in maintaining weight loss better than those who are strict and live by the letter of the law. It makes sense. It's hard to keep up the "all or nothing" approach that some diets require. No carbs? Protein only? Dinners divided into macro-nutrient ratios? I can see why some diets are made to be broken.
The best diets fit into your lifestyle, and should be possible to maintain whether eating at home, or out at a restaurant or friend's house. However, there are some myths that need to be debunked in order to enable you to enjoy the flexibility that allows a diet to succeed.
Myth 1: It's best not to eat after 7 p.m.
It's not when you eat, it's what you eat, and how much. Studies show that those who eat late at night do not gain weight because of the lateness of their calorie consumption, but because eating at that stage usually pushes them well over their daily calorie requirement, given that they probably haven't eaten since lunchtime. If you do find that dinner is most likely to be consumed late at night, make sure to eat a healthy snack mid-afternoon to counter the chances of overeating.
Myth 2: Avoid white bread, rice and pasta.
While not as healthy or nutritious as their whole grain counterparts, don't beat yourself up if you find yourself tucking into "white" carbs. Simply ensure most of your carbohydrate intake comes from whole grains, which should allow you indulge in a serving of refined carbs every now and again.
Myth 3: Eat five small meals a day.
Theoretically this makes sense. Five small healthful meals ensure that your blood sugar is kept steady, your appetite satisfied, and your metabolism high. However, more meals mean more opportunities to overeat, with some studies showing links between frequent meal consumption and obesity. Additionally, for those with an emotional tie to food, having to constantly think about what to eat five times a day can be stressful, and lead to bad dietary choices.
Myth 4: A low fat or fat free diet is good for you.
No matter what size you are, you need fat in your diet. About one third of your calories should come from fat, necessary for energy, tissue repair, and to transport fat soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K around the body. Simply make sure this fat intake is from unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and avocados, and not trans or saturated fats.
Myth 5: Low fat foods help you lose weight.
This is a very common misconception. Low fat does not mean low calorie. Most of these products are high in sugar, which turns to fat. In addition, people tend to overuse low fat products, often ending up consuming twice as much as they would of the full fat product.
Understanding nutrition and taking a balanced approach to your food should enable you to make the right choices, without the stress or rigidity of an impossible to follow diet.